“What shall I call you in my blog?” I asked.
“People know me as Richie Smallsmore,” said the person who is not actually Richie Smallsmore. The real person is in the fourth year of his PhD on the War in Croatia 1991-1995.
But, since June 2012, the person who is not Richie Smallsmore has also been organising almost-but-not-necessarily-exactly monthly comedy nights at Goldsmiths College in South East London.
“Do you want to become a full-time comedy promoter when you finish your PhD?” I asked.
Richie Smallsmore is a character act – “an arrogant deluded business guru”.
“The ideal character,” I suggested, “to be a comedy promoter.”
I went to Goldsmiths College last night to see the monthly comedy night he co-organises with Gwyn Davies and which, this month, had additional ‘live scribing’ – a concept I am ashamed to say I had never heard of.
“Live scribing,” explained the man who is not Richie Smallsmore, “is when an artist quickly draws representations/interpretations of what’s going on – in this case the ideas in the stand-up comedy. These huge images are then displayed as our night progresses. We put together a video about it on YouTube.”
Goldsmiths Comedy promoters (not) Richie Smallwood and Gwyn Davies (he’s not Irish) tested the idea of ‘Live Scribing’ for a comedy show in May this year and last night was their second trial run.
Artist Peter Morey was a school friend of Richie’s, so was an obvious choice. He has just finished an MA in Illustration at Falmouth. His BA was in Philosophy.
“The philosophy kind of feeds into some of this stuff,” he told me last night. “Maybe not so much into the comedy, but some of the other stuff I do.”
“I create comics and I screen print things but I also do this live scribing. It’s visual thinking. I’ve done it for meetings and conferences and for Lady Gabby, a punk poet, in Berlin. For her, I was doing this kind of stuff onto a wall in Berlin.”
“And you’ve done it for conferences?” I asked.
“I’m aiming to do more of that,” Peter told me. “I’m in the room with them while they’re having their meeting or conference.”
“What do they get out of it?” I asked.
“It’s visual thinking, right?… You’re giving a visual take on whatever is said… They’re seeing what they’re saying being visualised. I guess they get to see their ideas in a different light. Some of it might not be things people have noticed they’re saying – metaphors, figures of speech.”
I asked: “An example of the sort of conference you’ve done it for?”
“One was on sustainable energy,” explained Peter. “It’s a bit like being a jester in a court. You’re giving a perspective on proceedings that wouldn’t be said by anyone else in the room.
“It’s a new field of illustration. It’s been done before – not necessarily live. There’s a thing called RSA Animate. But I don’t think it has been done at comedy shows.”
“You are hidden from view behind a screen,” I said, “so you hear but don’t see the acts. Why?”
“I draw a lot from my own imagination,” said Peter. “If I see the acts, I’m going to be influenced by the way they look and what I see in the room. But, if I just rely on what they say, I can let my visual imagination go wild and latch onto metaphors, figures of speech, knob gags and just go with it.”
“So,” I said, “it’s not you observing their acts but you observing their thoughts.”
“Yes. It’s making cartoons out of what they say, but often in a lateral way.”
“And it’s called live scribing?”
“Here, yes,” said Peter. “In the US, it’s called graphic facilitation.”
“It would be,” I said. “They just love adding syllables and sounding serious. The British language tends to use simpler words.”
After I left Goldsmiths and got home in the early hours of this morning, there was a Comment waiting for approval on the ‘About Me’ page of this blog. I was going to approve the Comment, but then decided not to. I may have been wrong.
“What an absolute fuckin no mark you are, cuntface. Ignorance. What a fuckin poor show. Blair went to the editors about this? Seriously? We live in the UK. We fuckin built this country. Working class, peasant class, middle class and elite. You could never understand because of where you were brought up. Utterly without comprehension. Embarrassing.”
I was not quite sure if this message – allegedly from someone called Fredja with a hotmail.com address – was a very clever or a very dumb idea.
On the face of it, the comment is quite dumb. Why think that someone called ‘John Fleming’ was not brought up in Britain – unless the person thinks I am actually from Flanders’ fair fields?
On the other hand, it could be one of those spam messages just trying to elicit the response of a click or a reply.
Or maybe he or she could have a valid opinion.